Bundesliga Team of the Season: 2012-13
The 2012-13 Bundesliga campaign is just a week away from its conclusion, and although the title has long been wrapped up, the fourth Champions League spot and Europa League positions are still too close to call.
At this point, however, it's safe to laud individuals for their performance during a highly entertaining campaign in a Team of the Season.
The selection from 2012-13 is a mixture of established stars and budding talents, from Bastian Schweinsteiger to David Alaba. Bayern dominate the awards, with seven representatives; the remaining four come from three more clubs.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a rundown of B/R's best XI of the 2012-13 Bundesliga season.
Goalkeeper: Kevin Trapp
A year ago, Kevin Trapp played for a Kaiserslautern side that was relegated to the 2. Bundesliga. He was first-choice for long spells of the season, but Tobias Sippel came in and out of the fore. Eventually, Trapp was sold to promoted Frankfurt. And there he took an enormous step in his career.
This season, Trapp has saved 72.18 percent of shots on his goal and made 24 "outstanding" saves. Frankfurt, recently welcomed back into the Bundesliga, have long been in contention for an improbable Champions League spot at season's end. And even if they don't finish fourth, a point should see them nail down a Europa League spot in 2013-14.
Trapp has been his team's most important and consistent player and deserves full praise for a marvelous campaign.
Right-Back: Philipp Lahm
Germany and Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm had inspired form all season long. He was a key part of what almost surely will end the season as the most stifling defense in Bundesliga history and consistently performed at the very highest level.
An ultra-clean defender, Lahm hasn't been booked yet in Bundesliga play and won a brilliant 62 percent of his challenges. More than just a defender, he was a key player in the buildup and even in the final third. Few players have exceeded his 10 assists, and his 2,430 touches of the ball are more typical of an elite central midfielder than a full-back.
Lahm has gone under the radar in recent seasons, but in 2012-13, he was perhaps the best full-back in all of Europe.
Dante saved it until rather late in his career to make himself known as an international-class player. Soon to be 30 years of age, he played his first Champions League match this season and earned his first call-up and cap for Brazil. Call him a late bloomer, but the ex-Monchengladbach man has established himself firmly as one of world football's best defenders.
In his first season at Bayern, Dante settled immediately and earned a starting role alongside Holger Badstuber. And when his partner was injured, he flawlessly adapted to a rotation of Daniel van Buyten and Jerome Boateng filling in the vacancy in central defense.
Regardless of his partner in defense, Dante has been brilliant for Bayern. Having conceded just 15 times, the Bavarians are set to shatter the Bundesliga record for fewest goals against in a season (21). Of all Bayern players, Dante may be the most responsible for this astonishingly low tally.
Left-Back: David Alaba
Rounding off an all-Bayern defense is David Alaba, who has firmly established himself as one of Europe's best left-backs this season.
The Austria international has formed a fearsome partnership with Franck Ribery on the left wing, and the two have terrorized defenses all season long. Easily as skilled as a midfielder, Alaba is a fearsome attacking player.
Critically, Alaba has the discipline to know when to attack and when to defend. And his skill in defending—be it tackling, tracking or using sheer quickness and power—is similarly elite. Still a month before his 21st birthday, Alaba appears destined to have a glowing career.
Defensive Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger entered this season seemingly a broken man. A year prior, he was eager to show his very best form, but two injuries saw him miss several months. And when he came back, he played through the pain barrier. He struggled for form and missed a penalty in Bayern's Champions League final shootout loss to Chelsea. At Euro 2012, he disappointed as an underperforming Germany were eventually knocked out by Italy.
This season, Schweinsteiger was transformed. He started strong and avoided injury. And as the season has progressed, he's risen to every challenge. Schweinsteiger outplayed Andrea Pirlo and Xavi in the Champions League, and at the moment he may be the very best midfielder in Europe.
Given Bayern's success this season, Schweinsteiger should be among the leading candidates to win the Ballon d'Or.
Defensive Midfielder: Ilkay Gundogan
Ilkay Gundogan's successful transformation from playmaker to holding midfielder was completed by early 2012, but the Dortmund man only affirmed his quality this season.
Gundogan missed six Bundesliga games this season, of which Dortmund won only two. His importance in the team is akin to that of Nuri Sahin in 2011, when the Turkey international was voted by Kicker as the Bundesliga's Player of the Season.
With the work rate of a holding midfielder and all the creativity and passing accuracy of a playmaker, Gundogan is a complete package. Even in a star-studded Germany squad, he has a real chance of earning a starting role in Joachim Low's team ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
Defensive Midfielder: Javi Martinez
Like Dante, Alaba and Gundogan, Javi Martinez entered this season having not yet established his class at the highest level. Jupp Heynckes picked out the former Bilbao man as a necessary addition, and Martinez was given a stage upon which to compete at Bayern.
It took a few months for Martinez to settle in Munich, but once he did, he proved exactly why Bayern were willing to spend €40 million on his transfer. His breakthrough was against Dortmund in December, a match in which his aggression and physicality stifled a BVB side that had previously gotten the better of the Bavarians in four consecutive league matches.
In the second round especially, Martinez has been outstanding. As such, he earns a spot as a third holding midfielder in this best XI, taking the position ahead of all potential secondary center-backs.
Right-Winger: Thomas Muller
Thomas Muller struggled for much of last season, but turned over a new leaf in 2012-13 and hasn't looked back since. With one match left to play, the 23-year-old has scored 13 goals and given 12 assists, making him Bayern's most prolific scorer.
Muller's play is rarely particularly eye-catching and no single talent of his sticks out as superlative. But his wide-ranging array of talents have proved utterly devastating. He's fast, strong in the air, a great finisher with either foot, a good dribbler, a gifted playmaker and, of course, he's particularly apt when it comes to finding the place to be at the opportune time.
The only thing predictable about Muller is that he'll make an impression when it matters most.
Center Attacking Midfielder: Mario Gotze
The choice between Mario Gotze and Marco Reus was a difficult one, but the former claims top honors for his performance in the Bundesliga this season, while the latter would be a better pick for the Champions League.
After an injury-blighted 2011-12, Gotze affirmed his class this season and delivered some magnificent performances against Bayern and Furth, among others. Even when he didn't score or assist, Gotze's influence at all depths of the pitch was critical to Dortmund's second-place finish in the Bundesliga.
Still just 20 years of age, Gotze seems to have an exceptional career ahead of him. At Dortmund, he will be sorely missed. At Bayern, the sky is the limit to what he can achieve.
Left-Winger: Franck Ribery
For the sixth consecutive year, Franck Ribery has been Bayern's go-to playmaker. And the 30-year-old has, as so often in the past, delivered admirably.
Ribery's 13 assists are matched only by Gotze, a particularly disturbing reality for all opponents of Bayern, given the latter's impending move to Munich this summer. And to boot, he's scored eight goals.
Although the Frenchman's Champions League productivity hasn't quite been up to par, he's been extremely consistent in domestic play. German football magazine Kicker thus far has rated him the best player in the Bundesliga, with the best average player rating in decades.
Striker: Stefan Kiessling
Bayern and Dortmund dominated the Bundesliga's Team of the Season, but the striker who features in this XI is neither Mario Mandzukic nor Robert Lewandowski.
Instead, Stefan Kiessling has had the best Bundesliga season of any striker. The 29-year-old has struck 24 goals, making him the most prolific scorer in the league. And his 10 assists are rivaled by few. All season long, he's offered brilliant finishing with both feet and his head, sublime hold-up play and has in many instances worked rather selflessly.
Indeed, Kiessling has made a very strong case for his inclusion in the Germany national team.